THE Elmbridge, near Droitwich, Gracelands Equestrian Centre proved a magnet for show jumpers when nearly 100 riders from several counties took part in a national show jumping qualifier.

The Equenox Novice qualifier was for horses making a start to their affiliated show jumping careers and with current BSJA winnings of £100 or less.

Gracelands' owner Chris Napier's first round course caught out close on half the field, but still left 52 horses in a mammoth timed jump-off.

They were chasing eight tickets to the final at April's National Blue Chip Championships, due to be staged in Solihull.

Adrian Little came within a whisker of scoring a popular home win. The Catshill-based rider partnered Perfect II for Jenny Napier, co-owner of the competition venue.

"I used to ride the horse for competition horse producers Frankley International," explained Little. "Then she injured her leg and was sold to Jenny.

"She now seems to be back in form but I only ride her when I go to compete at Gracelands, so we don't meet up that often."

The pair were drawn 32nd against the clock and jumped a quick clear that went into the lead by nearly half a second.

"I kept going all the way and didn't take a pull until the last fence, which made up the time," added Little. "We held the lead until four horses from the end, when we were just pushed down to second. I also jumped a double clear on another young horse, Over Ace, who finished 20th."

The class was finally won by Burton-on-Trent rider Mark Thompson on his ride of just three days, the Irish-bred 15.2hh mare Welcome Nautilus.

Stourport teenager Falon Harper finished third, coming from a late draw on the promising Belgian-bred horse Andora M, to finish two seconds behind the winner.